What LC Read: Vol. 2

Thursday, May 31, 2018

I've been busy (relaxing on holiday), so this week yields only two reads: The Great American Tragedy and one of the shittiest books I've read all year. As an aside, I spent the last two weeks in London and thought I'd share my favorite reading spots, in order of preference.

1. My boyfriend's couch. Advantages: extremely comfortable, he will tuck you in and fetch you water. Disadvantages: exclusive to me, as far as I know.
2. St. Paul's Cathedral. My favorite public space in all of London, a little bit of classic grandeur in the financial district. Unoccupied bench best accompanied by flat white and a Pret wrap. Fairly quiet before and after lunch.
3. Southbank. I'd only recommend this if you can concentrate with children running around, but it's a generally sunny area with plenty of cafes if you get bored, and they have a used book market every day! I also used to live in this area, so perhaps I'm partial to how lovely it can be when the weather's warm enough.
4. Kew Gardens. I didn't actually get to read here, but during our walk around the park, I wished I'd been able to. Many pockets of shade under the trees, and it's spacious enough to get plenty of peace and quiet.
5. Foyles Bookshop at Charing Cross. My weekly haunt when I was a student in London. They serve wine.
6. The British Library. A pretty obvious choice.
7. On the train. Preferably to Paris. It's me. I went to Paris.

Okay but actually, here are this week's reads, starting from the peak:

A Little Life | Hanya Yanagihara
I've read Yanagihara's The People in the Trees (which I recommended for recent grads), so I knew her work could get dark, but this was pathologically, passionately, horribly, beautifully sinister. I took notes throughout, and it started off playful enough, so I jotted down that it was "like Sex in the City with only a little of the sex and without the women," so really just ambitious men in an ambitious city. But it evolves quickly into a jarring consideration of childhood trauma, of men loving men (in both platonic and romantic ways), of hope and how very often hope fails. It is a moving tribute to how adult friendships can resurrect you, but only if you let them, and letting them is the hardest part of a life unloved. There is sometimes no salvation, no redemption, and no wonder. I admit that I cry easily, but I have not genuinely felt this shell-shocked and utterly bewildered since reading All Quiet on the Western Front many, many years ago. A Little Life is not a war novel, but it absolutely left me battered and defeated. I cried the entire way through. Please do not let the promise of devastation deter you from reading this book. It has changed me, and I will remember it always.  As someone who reads greedily and quickly, I do not say this lightly. This is scar tissue, as literature. Do pursue.

"People who don't love math always accuse mathematicians of trying to make math complicated," Dr. Li had said. "But anyone who does love math knows it's really the opposite: math rewards simplicity, and mathematicians value it above all else. So it's no surprise that Walter's favorite axiom was also the most simple in the realm of mathematics: the axiom of the empty set. "The axiom of the empty set is the axiom of zero. It states that there must be a concept of nothingness, that there must be the concept of zero: zero value, zero items. Math assumes there's a concept of nothingness, but is it proven? No. But it must exist." 

The Wedding Date | Jasmine Guillory
It was my fault. I needed a frothy, light read to recover from Yanagihara and in a post-Royal Wedding daze chose this shitty piece of work. For context, I like my decadent books too, especially the sickly sweet British ones where the poor PR girl lands the hot finance guy (life imitates art, stay tuned). But I also think there's a way to do "beach reads"/"chick lits" well, and this one forged its own path towards becoming, frankly, one of my least favorite books in the last year. I try to be generous with other authors, because I am an unimportant one and exceedingly fragile, but The Wedding Date tried to address interracial relationships in the cringiest of ways (the dialogue read like a parody of social justice warriors, whom I generally respect), and the sex scenes were boring. And that was basically the bulk of it. Two immature adults (a hot commitment-phobic doctor and a curvy self-deprecating woman, groundbreaking) who could have bypassed 99.9% of the plot by just fucking communicating like people old enough to date and bone and, idk, drive. Do not recommend. No quotes worthy.

With great love still,

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